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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Friday, October 19, 2018

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US naval vessel to deploy to Singapore on longest mission in decades

Combat ship class deployed to Singapore

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SINGAPORE - The USS Fort Worth is will depart Monday for Asia, where it will operate largely out of Singapore for 16 months, the longest deployment of a US Navy ship in more than 42 years, to stress the Navy's logistics capabilities, and understand where problems might arise.

USS Fort Worth will be the first of the new littoral combat ship class deployed to Singapore since USS Freedom more than a year ago, contractors and crews have made some 400 improvements to the ship based on USS Freedom's performance.

The crew of 54, plus the 24-person aviation squadron, will swap out early next year, and that group will be replaced again late in 2015, according to Commander Ken Bridgewater, the ship's commander. The crew will switch out a third time before it returns to San Diego.

After 16 months, the Fort Worth will be replaced by the USS Freedom. This will be the longest deployment of any US Navy vessel since the carrier Midway was under way for 327 days in 1973. The Midway used one crew.

USS Freedom spent 10 months in Southeast Asia dealing with significant maintenance problems the ship lost propulsion during a replenishment, and had issues with its steering water jets. USS Freedom also delivered humanitarian relief supplies to areas of the Philippines hardest hit by a 2013 typhoon.

The Pentagon is reviewing Navy recommendations on whether to upgrade the ships, modify them or switch to a different design. The decisions will be part of the fiscal 2016 budget request.

USS Fort Worth features different air compressors, fixes to cooling systems that experienced corrosion issues and a 15% increase in fuel capacity, in addition to cosmetic changes, the commander of the ship and the commodore of LCS Squadron 1 said.

The LCS is a fast ship with a shallow draft, which allows it to go into ports other navy ships can't access, Bridgewater said. "We can go in and engage with a lot more partners and allies," he said.

Amid the US strategic pivot to Asia, the navy views the Littoral class as a cheaper alternative to rotating a larger ship into the region. An Arleigh Burke-class destroyer generally has more than 300 crewmembers and requires more fuel, water and other resources.

The ship is expected to do patrols, training and joint exercises around Singapore, the South China Sea and other areas of the 7th Fleet area of responsibility.

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